Most people love to travel, or at least they would say they do. If you don‘t like to travel, well… that‘s just not normal. Kidding!
We tease, but for most people, travel is just a break from the mundane of their normal way of life. They get to experience beautiful places, be pampered in an all-inclusive resort for a week, and get some rest! It’s more that they are exempt from their normal responsibilities than it is a true love for travel. This kind of trip may or may not be enjoyable for kids.
Children are a different breed, so how do you instill a love of travel in little humans? How do you get them excited about new cultures, new foods, and venturing out of their comfort zones? In this travel guide, we have compiled all the best tips and tricks to get your children excited about travel! Instilling a love of new adventures starts at home, in their everyday life. Here are all the best ways to incorporate wanderlust into their daily life and encourage them to fill up their bucket list!
Let’s roam together!
One of the best ways to instill a love of travel in your children is to participate in unique experiences together. That’s why we created Adventures From Scratch! Our experts put together 55+ family adventures to help you and your crew get the most out of every bit of summer free time. Just scratch off an activity suggestion, hit the road, and document your journey along the way. Let the adventures begin!
Top Tips to Instill and Nurture a Love of Travel in Kids
1. Get them in on the action.
Travel planning is part of the fun! The anticipation of your next trip starts well in advance as your peruse the available activities, look for deals, and gawk at the fancy hotels. Just like you, your kids will be more excited about a trip if they get to help plan the itinerary. If they are old enough to Google, then put them in charge of a few small things. It’s super easy, just say, “Hey Billy, you are in charge of finding us two fun activities in ___________.” “Susie, why don’t you find the best restaurants for us to try the local food.” Just make sure to give them parameters of budget and time. Remind them to think of everyone as they plan, trying to find things that other family will love too. If your kids are too young for that, pick out three of four activities, hotels, etc, and ask them which one they like and want to go see.
Not only will this make them feel like an important part of the family unit, but it helps them learn about the destination, the customs, and the food. Once you arrive to your destination, each child will be excited to experience the places they researched in person!
Helpful Hint: If you ask them to help, make sure that you include the activities they chose. If it is a bust, then it is an opportunity for personal growth. Encourage them that even though they didn’t love it, they learned from it. They now know they don’t really like that activity, and they can choose a different one for the next adventure.
2. Make a travel board.
Grab a push-pin board and invite family members to pin up travel inspirations. They are easy to find. Social Media Platforms are loaded with travel groups, Instagram travel reels, and stunning photos of exotic destinations. Encourage older kids to use their social media to find places they might like to visit. Allow smaller children to use a magazine and cut out pictures of places they like.
Post your favorite travel quotes too. Tell the kids, ”anything travel-related that you love, feel free to put it on the board, and we can all dream about it together! This easy activity gives kids something imaginative to do with free time. It helps them dream, and it lets you in on what your family really wants to see. It’s a win all around!
3. Always have a trip in the works.
So, you are sitting on the beach in Costa Rica looking at scuba diving courses in Cozumel. There is nothing wrong with that. As we said, travel planning is part of the fun. To instill a love of travel in children, they should always have something to look forward to. Keep their imaginations going with conversations about future travels.
4. Encourage them to share their travel experiences.
It’s important for children to be able to express themselves and share their ideas. This aspect is important in the planning process, but it is also important afterward. Give them chances to talk to loved ones about what they enjoyed, the new skills they conquered, and the parts they didn’t like. Encourage them to take their vacation souvenir or photos to Show and Tell at school or write an essay about their trip. This allows them to process their trip, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
5. Research different cultures.
Culture shock is certainly a part of international travel. However, it is perhaps the most valuable part for children. In a different environment than their own, they learn innumerable life experiences. Their minds are broadened to new ways of doing things, and depending on where you travel, their hearts may be softened as they will be meeting people with a different standard of living.
These can be amazing life lessons, but they can also be hard on kids. The best way to avoid tantrums, fear, and unwanted reactions is to prep your kiddos beforehand. Show them pictures of the typical housing and streets of your destination. Research (together) the local diet. Talk about safety precautions, what people do for fun there, and how they dress. With the right guidance, this exercise helps your children gain respect for new cultures and will make it easier for them to make new friends!
6. Buy an international cookbook
F.or some kids, food is the hardest part. However, any avid traveler knows that relationships are built over food, so it’s important to at least attempt to get your kiddos to try the local cuisine. Like pretty much everything, a love for adventurous eating starts at home. Snag a great international cookbook and let your children choose which recipes they would like to make on “Travel Meal Tuesday.” You can get a book specifically from your next destination, or just grab one with recipes from all over the world. You kids will love sitting down in a Guatemalan restaurant and recognizing the Pepian Chicken that they made at home before the trip. It’s exciting!
7. Play travel games.
Institute family game night and focus it on travel games. There are a ton of them out there, like the Trekking The National Parks Family Board Game or Destination Anywhere’s Table Topics. You can also make your own matching games for small children by finding pictures of famous landmarks all around the world and printing them on stock paper.
This activity is not only educational, but it associates travel with family-fun time, and that’s the goal isn’t it? It is certainly better than everyone in separate rooms looking at their tablets. Give it a shot!
8. Start them on a collection.
I don’t know about your kids, but most of them love a collection! Rocks, random beads, or treasures they found in the dirt end up stashed in their underwear drawer. Perhaps switch out their yard rocks with a more meaningful collection.
The options for collections are limitless and don’t have to be extravagant. You can let them choose a pretty postcard, a magnet, or a small figurine from each travel destination. Mark on the bottom of the piece where you got it and when, and allow them to create an artistic space in their room to display their treasures.
9. Read travel adventures.
.Bedtime stories can get old and stale for parents, but you have to do it, so you might as well use the time to explore travel options. Reading travel stories together is one way to educate your kiddos on an upcoming destination or teach them travel hacks for how to enjoy a plane ride or a road trip. With older kids, you can chill together and watch a YouTube travel series instead. They are great way to collect bucket list items and work up some wanderlust!
There are travel books out there for all ages from Pete the Cat’s Family Road Trip for the littles to Heart of Darkness for your teenagers. You can also use this time to allow your children to make up their own stories. Grab one of their souvenirs off the shelf and ask them to tell you a story about it. You might be surprised by what they come up with!
10. Make the trip fun for them too.
Preparing at home is important, but none of these tips will work if they don’t enjoy the actual trips! Allowing them to choose some of the activities will help immensely in this area, but it also takes some intuition when you are on the trip. Monitor your kiddos and their behavior. You know them best. If they need a break today, then toss the itinerary and take a pool day. If they are bored with the beach, then book an extra snorkeling tour.
This takes balance. Obviously, you can’t just cave to their every whim. That wouldn’t be good parenting, or financially responsible, but you can usually find a way to slightly alter the day’s plan to help everyone in the family get the most out of it. If you have several children, make sure that each child has an equal opportunity to do the things they want to do. It’s a good teaching moment for the others kiddos to learn to share in the joy of their siblings, even if it isn’t something they would have chosen.
Making sure your kids enjoy travel starts with choosing the right locations. This guide to “The Best Places to Travel With Kids” should help you with some stellar family vacation destinations!
11. Study the language.
Learning different languages is not only a valuable life skill, but it will help your children feel more integrated on vacation. You will watch their faces light up when the waitress, says “Hola,” and they get to answer her back in Spanish. Attempting to learn the language is also a wonderful way to show respect for the local culture. Generally, locals are very appreciative of considerate travelers who attempt to learn their language.
Let’s Roam has documented 16 reasons to encourage language learning to your little travelers!
12. Create bucket lists.
Most adults have a list of things they want to do before they die, and it’s never too early to start! As we mentioned earlier, Youtube travel videos are a great resource for this. They can help you find destinations, travel tips, and bucket list activities you would have thought of on your own!
Encourage each of your children to keep a journal of all the crazy things they want to try. Maybe they want to jump from the highest bungee platform in Central America, scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, or climb the Eiffel Tower. Encourage them to write all their ideas down and start making plans on how to achieve them! Just don’t be surprised when your teenager comes to you with an idea that is a little out of your momma comfort zone! You have travel insurance, right?
13. Help them focus on the important stuff.
It’s easy to get very excited about a fancy hotel pool or a high-intensity (high-priced) activity, but in the long run, these are not the memories your children will treasure. They are nice, but they aren’t the true essence of travel. As you are touring your favorite destinations, point out the little stuff. Allow them to pick fruit from the Central American farmer on the side of the road. Let them peruse the knittings of the local babushka in the Bulgarian mountains. Point out the children playing in the European fountains and encourage them to join in.
Remember, if you are excited about it, then your children likely will be too. While this can be exhausting, it is worth it! It is actually possible to travel the world and learn nothing. People do it all the time, but those who truly relish their trips, those who tell harrowing adventure stories to their grandchildren, are the ones who learned to fully immerse themselves in their destinations.
Warning: Those with a lust for travel will never feel totally at home anywhere. Their heart will likely always long for the next adventure, and they will leave pieces of it everywhere. It‘s a reality that most of us intrepid travelers consider a small price to pay for a life of adventure!
14. Take a rest day.
The reason we love to travel is that it adds so much to our lives. But, when you are in the thick of it, sometimes that is hard to see. This usually occurs about day three, when the Arizona sun is too hot, the street vendors are getting annoying, or everybody is sick of curry and just wants a cheeseburger! It’s easy to get overwhelmed and give in to frustration.
This is a great time to regroup. Drop the itinerary. Take a rest day. As Americans, we tend to come home from vacation more exhausted than when we left. We only have a few days, we have to make the most of them. However, if you’re constantly on the timer, and rushing everyone to get to the next item, you will be stressed, and your children will feel it! They are intuitive little suckers. You do not want them to associate travel with stress and frustration. It should feel like a release from all that.
15. Preserve the memories.
Make a family travel scrapbook or photo wall. Allow each person in the family to choose their favorite photo or moment from your trip, and preserve that moment with their words. If you choose the scrapbook route, just jot down their words in quotes for why this was their favorite memory. If you choose the photo wall, write it on the back of the photo, or frame the photo, and write it on the matte.
Having your travel memories easily accessible is a great conversation starter. You can discuss your favorite memories over dinner and talk about where you would like to go next. For an alternate idea, install a large wall map and pin your favorite pics on each destination you visit!
16. Don’t forget to adventure at home!
While huge international vacations are dreamy, so are weekends in the woods an hour from home. Great travel memories do not have to be in far away exotic lands. Take your weekends to explore your own backyard.
Grab a map of your state. Paste it over a corkboard, and hang it in the garage or playroom. When the weekend is approaching, choose a family member to throw a dart and see where it lands. Whatever the dart hits becomes your weekend destination. Start planning together what you will do there. Next week (or month) a different family member gets to throw.
17. Travel light.
One of the hazards of traveling with children is all the extra stuff! It’s a constant shuffle of bags between family members, trying to convince them to pull their own bag, and attempting to squeeze them all in the rental car or public transit. Believe it or not, you don’t really need most of that stuff. Most locations you are going to choose to go with your children will likely have everything you need on site. Do your research and take as little as possible. Nobody is going to remember that your kid wore the same two t-shirts all week. Wash them in the hotel sink and hang them up, or visit the local laundromat on your rest day. Rental companies have their own car seats that meet current standards, and unless you have intense allergies, you can find appropriate food products locally. Everyone can survive with one pair of sandals. Sunscreen can be bought when you get there. Make it easy on yourself.
What does that have to do with kids? Well, more stuff equals more stress on everyone. Your kids will get tired of holding it, and you will not be able to. To avoid stressing them out, pack less! It’s also another learning opportunity for you and for them. It fosters creativity and forces you to look for new ways to accomplish things. Plus, you might just find that you can live happily with a lot less than you are used to, and you won’t miss it at all!
18. Spice it up!
There is nothing wrong with having a family vacation destination that you love. Many families have a treasured spot that they return to time and time again. However, if you want to create a love of travel in your child, vary up your vacation destinations to expose them to more of the world.
This doesn’t mean you still can’t visit your second home, but mix in some new destinations as well. You don’t want them to get bored, and you don’t want to limit their concept of travel. Make sure when they think about travel their little brains are filled with wonder, and their thoughts run off to new adventures.
19. Be a safe place when disappointment arises.
If you have traveled much in your life, you know that some trips are just disappointing. Nothing seems to go right. You don’t like the food, or the people aren’t nice. Everybody else loves it, but your family found it incredibly boring. As the primary trip planner, this is hard! You put in so much work, and you just want everyone to enjoy themselves.
Make sure your kiddos know that is okay not to love every destination. While we can appreciate aspects of the culture or the beauty of the landscape, it is unrealistic that every location is going to be perfect to every individual. In fact, no destination is perfect. Stay anywhere long enough and you will find its flaws.
There is a difference between dissing another culture and expressing dislikes. Give your kids the chance to respectfully express the things they don’t like, just as you celebrate the things they do. It’s important to find parts of the culture that are beautiful and new skills to incorporate into your daily life, but it is equally important to point out things that you do not want to emulate.
20. Don’t force it.
Not everyone is going to love the travel world. We get it, you love it, and you really want your children to enjoy it. However, some kids are homebodies. They enjoy their space, with their toys, and their comforts more than being away, and that is okay. While we can encourage them to get out of their comfort zones and experience new things, in the end, we cannot force them to enjoy it. They are individuals. Gently encourage and lead by example, but try not to force them into new things. Perhaps, they will come around on their own. Perhaps they won’t.
Author note: This last concept is a hard one. As an avid traveler, I want my friends and family to love it too, but some of them just don’t. My very own sister is the world’s biggest homebody. She is most happy on her farm, with her animals and her kiddos. It took me way too long to realize that she wasn’t being fearful or boring. She simply does not care what people eat in Thailand or what the biggest festival in Germany is. She could not care less! One of her children is like her, and one is me made over. That is the nature of humanity. We are all different. So, in the end, if your kids value and enjoy travel, then encourage it. If they don‘t, put effort into what they do love.
Book that trip!
Perhaps the number one way to instill a love of travel in your kids is to travel with them! Whether it is a neighborhood outing or a venture across the world. Take them out. Explore the world together! Then, come back and tell us what you found out there. Drop your favorite family travel memories in the comments. We want to hear all about it!
For more tips on traveling as a family, check out “Family Travel Tips: Travel Like Pros.”
Frequently Asked Questions
The best way to instill a love of travel in kids is to incorporate travel into their daily lives by researching destinations together, reading travel books, and playing travel-related games!
The best way to get a child to love travel is to allow them to be a part of the planning process. Let them choose activities, research the culture together, and help them create their own bucket lists.